MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Two intense typhoons that struck the Philippines are an indication that the ``La Nina'' weather phenomenon has begun affecting the country, the weather bureau said. ``It is here,'' said Ernesto Verceles, a weather specialist at the Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
``We should be ready for the worst,'' he said. ``The two previous storms were indications of things to come.'' Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 189 for Typhoon Babs, which hit the Philippines earlier. At least 74 died in Typhoon Zeb.
Last year, the Philippines suffered from a long drought attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon, a result of higher temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. La Nina, attributed to an abnormal cooling of the sea surface, is expected to cause heavy rains for the rest of this year. The weather bureau expects that La Nina will intensify the effects of at least five more tropical storms expected to strike the country in coming months. Provinces on the east side of Luzon, the Philippines' main island, will feel the brunt of the storms, Verceles said.
``Storms from the Pacific will hit the area with force before they weaken after hitting the mountain ranges on their way west toward the South China Sea,'' he said. The weather bureau is preparing an advisory on La Nina's effects that will be issued to prepare residents living near rivers and along the coast, he said.
About 152 of the deaths last week from Typhoon Babs were recorded in the Bicol region on the eastern coast, where the storm came ashore. Emilia Tadeo, an official at the Office of Civil Defense, said rescue workers are still finding bodies under landslides in Catanduanes island in Bicol. At least 53 people are still missing from the storm, she said.
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